Possessive affixes are found in many languages of the world. The World Atlas of Language Structures lists 642 languages which have possessive suffixes, possessive prefixes, or both, out of a total sample of 902 languages. Possessive suffixes are found in some Austronesian, Uralic, Altaic, Semitic, and Indo-European languages. Complicated systems are found in the Uralic languages; for example, Nenets has 27 (3×3×3) different types of forms distinguish the possessor (first, second, third person), the number of possessors (singular, dual, plural) and the number of objects (singular, dual, plural). That allows Nenets-speakers to express the phrase "many houses of us two" in one word. Mayan languages and Nahuan languages also have possessive prefixes.
Finnish uses possessive suffixes. The number of possessors and their person can be distinguished for the singular and plural except for the third person. However, the construction hides the number of possessed objects when the singular objects are in nominative or genitive case and plural objects in nominative case since käteni may mean either "my hand" (subject or direct object), "of my hand" (genitive) or "my hands" (subject or direct object). For example, the following are the forms of talo (house), declined to show possession:
|person||number||Finnish word||English phrase|
|second-person||singular||talosi||your (sing.) house(s)|
|plural||talonne||your (pl.) house(s)|
The grammatical cases are not affected by the possessive suffix except for the accusative case (-n or unmarked), which is left unmarked by anything other than the possessive suffix. The third-person suffix is used only if the possessor is the subject. For example, Mari maalasi talonsa "Mari painted her house", cf. the use of the genitive case in Toni maalasi Marin talon "Toni painted Mari's house". (The -n on the word talon is the accusative case, which is pronounced the same as the genitive case.)
For emphasis or clarification, the possessor can be given outside the word as well, using the genitive case. In this case, the possessive suffix remains. For example, my house can be taloni or minun taloni in which minun is the genitive form of the first-person singular pronoun.
Omission of the possessive suffix makes it possible to distinguish the plural for the possessed objects, but that is not considered proper language: mun käsi "my hand" vs. mun kädet "my hands". Systematic omission of possessive suffixes is found in Spoken Finnish, wherever a pronoun in the genitive is used, but that is found only in direct address: "Their coats are dry" is Niiden takit on kuivia (niiden lit. "they's"). That can be contrasted with indirect possession, as in "They took their coats", in which the possessive suffix is used: Ne otti takkinsa. Even in proper Finnish, the pronouns sen and niiden, which are the demonstrative as well as inanimate forms of hänen and heidän, do not impose possessive suffixes except indirectly. It would be hypercorrect to say niiden talonsa. There is also a distinction in meaning in the third person on whether or not the third-person possessive pronoun is used:
Hungarian is another Uralic language. Distantly related to Finnish, Hungarian follows approximately the same rule as given above for Finnish, except that it has no genitive case. To say, "Maria's house," one would say Mária háza (where háza means "her/his/its house").
Arabic, a Semitic language, uses personal suffixes, also classified as enclitic pronouns, for the genitive and accusative cases of the personal pronouns. The genitive and accusative forms are identical, except for the 1st person singular, which is -? in genitive and -n? in accusative case. They can be used with nouns, expressing possession, with prepositions, which require the genitive case, or with verbs, expressing the object. Examples for personal suffixes expressing possession, using the word bayt(u) (house) as a base:
|1st person||? bayt? my house||-||baytun? our house|
|2nd person (masc.)||? baytuka your house||baytukum? your (du.) house||baytukum your house|
|2nd person (fem.)||? baytuki your house||baytukunna your house|
|3rd person (masc.)||? baytuhu/baytuhi his house||baytuhum? their (du.) house||baytuhum/baytuhim their house|
|3rd person (fem.)||baytuh? her house||baytuhun(na)/baytuhin(ne) their house|
In Hebrew, a Northwest Semitic language, possessive suffixes are optional. Thry are more common in formal, archaic or poetic language and for certain nouns than on others. For instance, my home can be written ? (beiti). However, the following are some different ways to express possession, using the word (bayit, house) as a base:
In Assyrian Neo-Aramaic, a Modern Aramaic language, possessive pronouns are suffixes that are attached to the end of nouns to express possession similar to the English pronouns my, your, his, her, etc., which reflects the gender and the number of the person or persons.
|1st person||b?t? (my house)||b?tan (our house)|
|2nd person (masc.)||b?t?kh (your house)||b?t?khun (your house)|
|2nd person (fem.)||b?takh (your house)||b?t?khun (your house)|
|3rd person (masc.)||b?t? (his house)||bet?h (their house)|
|3rd person (fem.)||b?t? (her house)||b?t?h (their house)|
Although possessive suffixes are more convenient and common, they can be optional for some people and seldom used, especially among those with the Tyari and Barwari dialects. The following are the alternative ways to express possession, using the word "b?t?" (house) as a base:
|1st person||?-? /tun-s/||my house|
|2nd person||?-? /tun-t/||your house|
|3rd person||?-? /tun-?/||his/her house|
|1st person singular||-am|
|2nd person singular||-at|
|3rd person singular||-a?|
|1st person plural||-emân|
|2nd person plural||-etân|
|3rd person plural||-e?ân|
e.g. pedar-am my father; barâdar-a? his/her brother
|(Ayt Ayache)||(Ayt Seghrouchen)|
Independent possessives are formed by attaching the possessive suffixes to /wi-/ (if the object possessed is masculine) or /ti-/' (for feminine), e.g. /winw/ ('mine').
|1st person||(benim) evim||my house||(bizim) evimiz||our house|
|2nd person||(senin) evin||your house||(sizin) eviniz||your house|
|3rd person||(onun) evi||his/her house||(onlar?n) evleri||their house|
|1st person||negaraku||my country|
|2nd person||negaramu||your country|
|3rd person||negaranya||his/her country|
Not all pronouns are added in this way; most are written as separate words. For example, your country can also be expressed as negara anda or negara engkau, and our country as negara kita (if the reader is included) or negara kami (if the reader is excluded).
|1st person singular||no-ta||my father|
|2nd person singular||mo-ta||your (sg.) father|
|3rd person singular||i-ta||his/her father|
|1st person plural||to-ta||our father|
|2nd person plural||amo-ta||your (pl.) father|
|3rd person plural||in-ta||their father|